Foxcatcher, award ready; Horrible Bosses 2, no prize; and fun with race issues in Dear White People
I suppose the movie news that has most fans abuzz today is the arrival of the first trailer for the next Star Wars movie. Director J.J. Abrams said he’d release it today in a few theaters –around here that’s at Riverport in Richmond—but after a fan outcry the Disney Corporation agreed to also put it on I-tunes. They know how to play to the crowd. The trailer runs only 88 seconds. The full film is still a year away.
Here’s what has arrived:
Foxcatcher: 4 stars
Horrible Bosses 2: 2
Dear White People: 3
Everything Will Be: 3 ½
Force Majeure: 4
Corner Gas: 2 ½
Women Who Flirt: 2
Penguins of Madagascar: --
FOXCATCHER: Not a wrestling fan? Don’t worry. There is so much more than that going on in this true story. A sense of entitlement among the super rich. One man’s striving for respect. His need to achieve as a leader of men. The eerie feeling that he’s not quite stable. And ultimately, tragedy. They’re all there in a revelatory performance by Steve Carell.
Putting aside his usual light comic persona and donning a prosthetic nose, he becomes John E. du Pont, scion of the chemical industry family. Dad and mom raised horses; he built a gym on his Pennsylvania estate Foxcatcher, and sponsored a wrestling team. Foremost within it were the Schultz brothers, Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave (Mark Ruffalo). Both had won gold medals at the Los Angeles Olympics and would go on to win many other championships.
Du Pont had lofty visions in building the team. “I am giving America hope,” he says. American values are cited regularly, somewhat ironically when somebody sings “This Land is Your Land. Optimism then has to compete with a rising feeling of foreboding as the film rises into a mythic clash of three personalities. Channing is the jock, a bit lumbering in his walk and slow with his words. Ruffalo is the tactician and coach. To du Pont, he’s a rival. This one is far above the usual sports story and Bennett Miller expertly builds the tension and the sense of unease. He won the Best Director award at Cannes for it and for drawing superb performances out of his three stars. He previously directed the lighter Moneyball and the equally dark Capote. More awards are due. (5th Avenue and International Village) 4 out of 5
HORRIBLE BOSSES 2: I didn’t much like the original which came out three years ago. I found it much too mean-spirited. That’s been toned down quite a bit in this sequel –naturally, the chief carrier of that vibe (played by Kevin Spacey) is in jail and appears only briefly. Another character like him doesn’t re-appear at all and the script has switched targets. It’s now going after the bad side of free enterprise capitalism in general. It gets in some good shots and that makes this film marginally better. Be warned though. The dialogue is just as casually raunchy and Jennifer Aniston is even more outrageous as a dentist with a sex addiction.
The central characters, played by Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis, are working for themselves now, trying to sell a new shower system they’ve invented. A deal with a marketer (Christoph Waltz) seems promising. He praises entrepreneurship and says he’d never manufacture in China. He’s not averse to driving them into bankruptcy though, which prompts them to retaliate with a plot to kidnap his son. Nothing goes right for this trio of bumblers; the son (Chris Pine) wants in on the action and they have to once again seek advice from M.F. (it’s longer when spoken) played by Jamie Foxx. Low comedy played by big name-stars is still low. One bright side: the three talk over each other so much it always feels improvised and somewhat real. (Scotiabank and many suburban theatres) 2 out of 5
DEAR WHITE PEOPLE: Is this a good time to laugh about race relations in the United States? Maybe not, but you will anyway at this witty series of observations about the state of those relations in the age of Obama. Spike Lee fired his films with anger; newcomer Justin Simien uses wit and sharp observation of life among middle-class blacks on a college campus. People rate each other by pop culture criteria. One likes Bergman movies because there’s not much for blacks besides Tyler Perry in the theatres. One likes Taylor Swift; another knows nothing about jazz.